ST. GEORGE — As the state gas tax continues to gradually erode, the Utah Department of Transportation is launching a program that will charge people for each mile they drive.
UDOT is hoping to get 400-500 drivers of electric and hybrid vehicles to volunteer for a program implementing a road use charge for such vehicles because they either do not use gas or use less gas than conventional vehicles.
According to a presentation last week from UDOT Deputy Director Terry Newell to the Legislature’s interim Transportation Committee, there are 2.6 million vehicles registered in Utah. About 5,500 of those are electric-based. Ownership of electric vehicles in Utah has increased 45%-55% since 2015.
“So as the trend continues over time, we’ll have enough erosion of the gas tax to that we won’t be able to be able to support taking care of our roadway system,” Newell said.
A program to study the implementation of a road-use charge for electric and hybrid vehicles starts in October with drivers able to sign up in January.
The idea is to replicate the revenue the driver of an electric or hybrid car would be paying if they were paying the gas tax, Newell said. The purpose isn’t to add to the revenue the gas tax creates as much as maintain it because the program is meant to be revenue neutral.
The program will charge drivers $0.015 for each mile, and those miles would be tracked by a GPS system. If a driver goes 10,000 miles, they would pay $150, Newell said. A flat fee of $125 is also a potential option.
Other states are considering similar programs, but only Utah and Oregon are moving forward at this time.
“Utah could actually be the first state that does this,” Sen. Wayne Harper, R-Taylorsville, said.
Questions arose as to whether the program could become mandatory or be applied to combustion engine vehicles. Newell said those options may be considered as the program moves forward.
Rep. Walt Brooks, of St. George, a member of the House Transportation Committee, told St. George News Tuesday that there are many parts to pursing a road-use change program. However, it is a matter that needs to be addressed as gas tax revenue will continue to decrease as automotive technology gets better.
“Eventually something’s going to need to change,” he said. “We’re just at the beginning.”
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